When asked recently to name the one attribute CEOs will need most to succeed in the turbulent times ahead, Michael Dell, the chief executive of Dell, Inc., replied, “I would place my bet on curiosity.”
If you do nothing else as a business leader, support a culture of curiosity. Curiosity is a big driver of innovation. Find a way to allow your team time to roam and explore the vast ocean of opportunity ensconced in problem-solving and innovation.
You can start by operating under the three “C’s.”
- Contribute: Strive to be engaged and involved, the kind of person that steps out and leads to action.
- Communicate: Strive to be the kind of person that ask questions, researches concepts, and presents ideas.
- Create: Strive to be creative, the kind of person willing to think outside of the box and try new things.
A curious, inquisitive leader can set an example that inspires creative thinking throughout a company, according to Hollywood producer Brian Grazer. “If you’re the boss, and you manage by asking questions, you’re laying the foundation for the culture of your company or your group,” Grazer writes in his book, A Curious Mind. Grazer and others maintain that leading-by-curiosity can help generate more ideas from all areas of an organization, while also helping raise employee engagement levels.
So how do you go about creating this corporate culture of curiosity within your organization? It starts with you. Here are a few simple yet profound ways you can help foster an inquisitive company culture that is a safe place for people to share their ideas, flex their creative muscles, and grow together.
No Question is a Dumb Question
If you want your people to feel safe and willing to ask questions, you have to cultivate an environment that lets them do that. Operate under the motto that there are no “dumb” questions, they all serve a purpose. Encourage your employees to ask what they don’t know, and be willing to help them find the answer if it’s not readily available.
Yes, days can get busy and hectic, but if your people don’t feel they can ask questions without being rebuked or seen as stupid, they simply won’t ask. Find ways to respond with encouragement to all questions and ideas, even when some may be better than others.
Be Curious Yourself
Many companies will actively recruit people with certain gifts, skills, or mindsets into the fold, but then forget all about those things that make those people unique. Be curious about the people you bring into your organization, strive to identify the talents and gifts that make them valuable and unique, and then put those talents and gifts to work.
Yes, it is important for a company to work together and be unified as a team, but failing to recognize and honor different areas of skill and expertise that certain individuals bring is failing to allow your company to live up to its full potential.
Understand with Innovation, Comes Risk and Failure
Failure is just a fact of life. Adopt the motto of “fail fast, and fail forward” and don’t get stuck in failure or punish failure. If you are pushing your company to be innovators, failure is just a natural part of the process. It doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be accountability within your leadership, or that all failure is acceptable, but it does mean that you recognize failure is a part of the equation, and worthwhile if it leads to a bigger breakthrough.
Weigh cost versus reward, and proceed if the risk is worth it. Play the “What if?” game, and see where it takes you. In the publishing realm, some of the best stories in the world were written because someone asked “What if?” and didn’t stop until they came up with an answer. Why not ask the same question in business?
Reject Insulation and Isolation
It’s very easy in our current culture for people to become isolated and insulated from the outside world. People begin to wear blinders and ignore everything except what is right in front of them.
Be curious about the world around you, be curious about other people and cultures and point of views. Be curious about the latest trends in your industry, and be curious about things that force you to step out of your comfort zone and stretch yourself or your organization.
Ask Questions Yourself
People like to feel as though they have a voice, and that what they say can have an effect on potential outcomes. You can give them a voice by asking questions and inviting your employees into the conversation, whether you’re trying to solve a problem, or come up with something new and innovative, or merely trying to make sense of something that doesn’t appear to make sense.
Meetings should be a collaborative effort where everyone feels welcomed and involved and walks away feeling inspired and energized. So ask questions, and then encourage their response. If you need a way to make your meeting succinct and focused, we have just the thing.
These are just a handful of ways you can help cultivate a culture of curiosity within your organization. Every company has different strengths, but every company also has the potential to innovate. If you want to foster and encourage creativity and curiosity, it starts at the top. It starts with you.